A z-pulley or z-drag is a way of gaining leverage to pull a rope tight or to pull an object or person closer to the anchor. It is commonly used to tighten Tyrolean traverses, recover pinned boats in white water or in mountain or rock climbing scenarios.

How would one set one up?

1 Answer 1


Basically it looks like this.

diagram of a z-pulley

The rope goes from the object to a caribiner that is hooked into the anchor. Then it goes back down to where a prussik and a caribiner have been hooked to the rope going to the object. Then you take the rope through the caribiner, back towards the anchor.

To make it easier one could use pulleys instead of caribiners. For safety the one should use two opposite and opposed caribiners at each point, just as if your were setting up an anchor.

It is also possible to add another prussik to capture the progress,

diagram of a z-pulley with a capture prussik

or to use a one way pulley at the anchor.

It is also possible to add another line to the Z to increase the advantage from 3:1 to 5:1.

diagram of a 5:1 z-pulley

  • 2
    A nice example for the one way pulley at the anchor that can be used instead of the capture prusik in your second image would be a plate-style belay device (such as an ATC Guide or a Reverso in guide mode). That would represent the situation where you have to "assist" the follower in a multipitch climbing scenario, e.g. if he has fallen under an overhang and can't get back to the rock on his own.
    – anderas
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 8:44

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